The Intersection

Transforming Developmental Education in North Carolina’s Community Colleges

April 2, 2015

This is an excerpt from The Hunt Institute’s state-specific policy primer, coNCepts. Each issue focuses on a critical topic in education policy, highlights key research for North Carolina policymakers, and prompts discussion of solutions.

With more than 60 percent of entering community college students in need of at least one developmental course, and only about one-fourth of these students successfully earning a degree or certificate, the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) created theDevelopmental Education Initiative (DEI) in 2010 to transform the condition of developmental education for its students. Key goals of DEI include:

  • Reducing unnecessary enrollment in developmental coursework;
  • Accelerating student completion; and
  • Increasing the number of students who successfully complete developmental education and enroll in college-level courses.

As mathematics is the greatest obstacle to student success,2 and has substantial student enrollment, the DEI Math Task Force first focused on developmental mathematics and found that the existing sequence of 16-week semester courses did not meet student needs. Students who only needed to improve specific math skills were not able to move forward quickly, and students testing at very low levels needed additional assistance and options. With the expertise of college faculty from across the state, the DEI streamlined content, reduced redundant curricula, and ensured alignment with K-12 and college-level courses, resulting in eight new developmental mathematics modules implemented in Fall 2013.

Building upon the success of the mathematics redesign, the DEI English and Reading Task Force recommended replacement of the existing separate English and reading semester-long courses with three eight-week, three credit hour courses of integrated English and reading. For students who are near college-ready, colleges may co-requisite the highest developmental course with a college course. The three new developmental courses were implemented in Fall 2014.

At the request of NCCCS, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University’s Teacher College conducted a study that found a student’s high school grade point average (GPA) was significantly more predictive of a student’s college success than existing placement tests, and would cut in half the number of students misplaced from 30 percent to 15 percent.3

To continue reading the full March 2015 issue of coNCepts, go here.

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